Why are the carrousel ride at the end of the book and the Museum of Natural History so important to Holden?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The visit to the Museum of Natural History is brief and of no special importance to Holden except possibly to remind him that he is no longer a child and no longer frightened or impressed by the mummies and other ancient artifacts. He is just killing time. The carousel is a different matter. He doesn’t ride on it himself because he realizes he is too old to get much of a thrill, but he encourages his little sister Phoebe to keep riding again and again, and he keeps buying tickets for her. While he is watching her trying to grab the gold ring, he understands that he has outgrown his childhood and that he needs to become an adult in order to make way for the next wave of children who will still be able to experience the thrill of riding on a wooden horse, whirled around and around to the music as they try to catch the ring they still believe is made of real gold. At this point Holden comes of age. He lets go of many of the illusions and fantasies of childhood—they seem to be dissipated by the centrifugal force of the spinning carousel-- and he accepts the cold reality of adulthood with all its work and worry.


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